Coming off a season in which injuries gave way to his unexpected rookie campaign, Florida Panthers’ sophomore forward Drew Shore is heading into the 2013-2014 season with enough confidence for the entire roster. While Shore may not have garnered nearly the amount of attention as his fellow rookie teammate, 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau, he still proved to be a pleasant surprise in an otherwise forgettable year in South Florida.
Prior to joining the Panthers, Shore spent last season’s lockout playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. In 41 games for the Rampage, he compiled 30 points (10G-20A-30P) and was named an AHL All-Star. Given the amount of promise he showed in the AHL, Shore was the easy choice to fill the Panthers’ void at center that had been created by injuries to players like Stephen Weiss and Marcel Goc.
On January 22nd, Shore made his NHL debut in a 4-1 loss against the Montreal Canadiens. Aside from briefly being returned to San Antonio to compete in the AHL All-Star Game, Shore would remain with the Panthers for the remainder of the season.
“After getting a taste of it last year I don’t think I have ever worked harder than I have in a summer than I have this year,” Shore said of his time in the NHL last season. “Once you get a taste of it, you kind of see some of the good players and the things they do well and are that much more motivated to work hard.”
In 43 games for the Panthers last season, Shore recorded 13 points (3G-10A-13P), including leading all NHL rookies in scoring for the month of February with 11 total points. However, after his offensive outburst in February, Shore was only able to earn 2 points in his next 26 games played. While a nagging wrist injury detracted from his offensive game, it’s more likely that he simply ran out of gas while trying to keep a torrid pace that he simply wasn’t accustomed to.
Between the NHL and AHL last season, Shore competed in 84 total hockey games, which was exactly 25 more than he had played in just a year ago. Luckily, this problem is very common for any player coming from the NCAA – see Chris Kreider – and Shore is doing everything he can to get his conditioning up to par.
“Last year was kind of a whirlwind,” Shore said of his hectic schedule last season. “Coming here for a week, getting sent down, and getting called back up. This year I have a full summer to prepare and am getting in the best shape and as a strong as possible. I also have a lot more confidence coming into this year than last year.”
So what can we expect from Shore this season?
Heading into this year’s training camp, it has become clear that the Panthers will have an incredible battle at the center position. Between Shore, Aleksander Barkov, Marcel Goc, and Shawn Matthias, the Panthers have no clear-cut number one center. This uncertainty at center could mean that Shore’s performance at training camp could land him anywhere from the first line to the fourth line. Admittedly, Shore recognizes that confidence could be the biggest key to his success heading into camp.
“Confidence is such a big thing,” Shore said of his mindset going into next season. “You see some guys who score 30 one year and then score 10 the next and vice versa. The player didn’t get that much better or worse, a lot of it is just their confidence. Coming into this year I feel a lot more confident and I am excited.”
No matter where Shore does land on this year’s roster, it’s evident that the 22-year-old forward will be an important building block in the Panthers’ eventual success. On already one of the youngest rosters in the entire NHL, Shore admits that the Panthers’ future and youth is something to be excited about.
“A lot of people talk about the young kids on this team and I think that a lot of us have a bright future with this team and that makes it exciting.”
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